Don't Teach (that hard) From Home
March 12, 2020 5:43 PM   Subscribe

There’s some unreasonable snobbery about General Education courses (students still need to pass them, and, if they aren’t central to the curriculum, your institution has no business being accredited), but also some good advice. Kill the myth of the digital native!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:53 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]

I don't get this. This seems like really solid advice with a weird clickbait headline. I don't understand how prioritizing students' needs means you're doing a "bad job" of putting courses online. Maybe I'm just tired and missing something. My college just went online-only and I hope my teachers follow advice like this.
posted by not_the_water at 5:58 PM on March 12 [14 favorites]

It's saying that because the course was not originally designed to be online only and that students, for a myriad of reasons, had not signed up for an online course, that the instructor should not take on all the steps that one would normally do for a regular online class, such as synchronous classes, using specific tech that students may not have access to, spending an excessive amount of time editing recorded lectures, etc.
posted by acidnova at 6:09 PM on March 12 [39 favorites]

Yes, and a "bad job" is what perfectionist profs tell themselves they're doing if they don't get everything exactly right and hold all students to the highest possible standards.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 6:12 PM on March 12 [19 favorites]

Please do a bad job of putting your courses online

Please do good by your students and deliver excellent instruction while their world (and yours) goes to shit.
posted by klausman at 6:14 PM on March 12 [25 favorites]

First two paragraphs: Wildly and inappropriately dismissive. Extremely unhelpful to anyone understandably struggling with a transition they had no reason to expect and how to do their best by students.

Rest of the article: Reasonable-ish advice for making the transition.

posted by feckless at 6:16 PM on March 12 [15 favorites]

I really appreciated the multiple reminders that I'm now trying to do this coursework with my child at home at all times. And that I'm not thinking about this class as much as I'm thinking about my elderly parents.
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:17 PM on March 12 [12 favorites]

Excellent instructional technique is not developed on the fly. On-line courses are hard enough to design properly and doing it on the fly is just asking for issues with teachers and students both poorly trained on the tools, and by a teaching method that doesn't work for everyone. Zoom webinars --which is what my school is essentially asking for -- are terrible even with lecturers who are great in person and support staff monitoring for IT issues and important questions.

Lab courses, socratic interactions, exams that aren't multiple choice: all gone and to be replaced with new online material compatible with zoom and online grading by Monday. With minimal to no additional IT or admin support while doing your regular work as well ('cause faculty meetings and paperwork didn't go away just because the school went on-line).

Yeah, be a flexible as possible on everything.
posted by beaning at 6:19 PM on March 12 [16 favorites]

Once I allowed myself to do a bad job on assignments in this, my third dance with college, I started passing classes reliably, and learning enough to pass exams, too. It's wild how effective not wallowing in my perfectionist angst has been for my academic performance. I wish the same for my instructors while they try to get through this and not get sick.
posted by qbject at 6:20 PM on March 12 [35 favorites]

Please do a good job of putting your courses online.

There are going to be more courses online this week than there have ever been before. There are going to be people who have never put any kind of course online who are going to be doing it this week. And this week, they are going to decide if putting their courses online was a Good Idea or a Bad Disaster That We Hate.

Online courses are not just cool and modern, they are helping people get an education who could not otherwise get that education. We live in a world where, right or wrong (it's wrong), a bachelor's degree is now an entry requirement for nearly all the jobs that allow people social mobility. Yes, I RTFA, so I saw all the stuff in there about not misusing LMS tools because they're shiny, and I saw the stuff in there about not assuming anything about technical requirements, but I also saw the stuff that said not to do anything synchronous(!) (it says "don't require", which, sure, but then it says "refuse to do synchronous", which, what.) or not to have any student support tools available(!!) outside of "let a student ask you for help" and no, y'all, please do a good job of putting your courses online.
posted by capricorn at 6:30 PM on March 12 [20 favorites]

This is really timely, I'm a high school teacher and we're being asked to make preparations to move work online.

I thought of having them watch videos/take notes as classwork, with a few understanding questions to make sure they watched the video. And "homework" will still be worksheet they'll need to print, OR they can just write the answers down 1 2 3 on notebook paper and take a photo. Most students don't do homework anyway.

It's a math class... the worst kind of class to move online. And an urban school, many students don't do any work when they are *in* school. The main thing the school seems to be concerned about is tracking instructional hours, so the videos will be a way to easily ensure the hours requirements are met.

I like his advice about quizzes and tests, the online textbook already has a test question bank. Probably the quizzes and some (high level) classwork can be taken from there too. I don't think it's possible to randomize which questions appear on each student's test, though. If there is a way to do this in Google Forms let me know.
posted by subdee at 6:36 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]

I don't like the general education vs. courses required for the major distinction, but I do think there's a legitimate distinction between classes that stand alone and classes that are pre-requisites for other courses. If a student is in Calc I, there's a very good chance that student is going to need to take Calc II next semester, and they're going to be screwed if they haven't learned all the topics that were supposed to be covered in Calc I. On the other hand, you've got a little more wiggle room if you're teaching a class on gender and violence in 19th century British literature. You still want students to learn things, but it's not going to be the end of the world if they learn slightly different things in a slightly different way than you planned. And I think that required courses are more likely to be in that category of things that will be built on, although that's not always the case.
Online courses are not just cool and modern, they are helping people get an education who could not otherwise get that education.
I think this person agrees with you. But here's the thing: the students in these courses are not the students who want to take online classes because that helps them get an education. They are students who signed up to take in-person classes. Often they did this intentionally, because they think they learn better in in-person classes. Moreover, the people teaching these classes have not had time or support to plan good online classes. She's not talking about how online classes should work in general. She's laying out best practices for people who were informed yesterday that they need to move their classes online immediately.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:38 PM on March 12 [35 favorites]

Math instructors are talking about this here, btw.
posted by klausman at 6:44 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]

Exactly. This article is in no way a screed against online coursework in general. It has several points detailing the facts that the students who are now finding themselves in an online class mode when they had signed up for in person instruction can actually wreak havoc for a lot of reasons which instructors should be aware of. They may not have a safe home environment. They may not have access to the online content. They may be caring for children or other relatives while trying to watch your videos. And so on.
posted by acidnova at 6:46 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]

I roll my eyes at the author's gen-ed dismissal, but I agree with everything else in this essay, especially this part:

Students who did not sign up for an online course have no obligation to have a computer, high speed wifi, a printer/scanner, or a camera. Do not even survey them to ask if they have it. Even if they do, they are not required to tell you this. And if they do now, that doesn’t mean that they will when something breaks and they can’t afford to fix it because they just lost their job at the ski resort or off-campus bookstore.

My undergraduate students have a wide variety of tech at home because they pay student fees to have access to a library/computer lab/high-speed internet/etc on campus. Many of them will lose access to those resources now. I cannot assume that their home wifi will support video chats and synchronous learning; I cannot assume their personal laptops or cellphones are "fancy." I cannot ignore their varied needs in my course design -- and so my course design needs to be simple and accessible and necessarily worse than my in-person instruction would be.
posted by toast the knowing at 6:50 PM on March 12 [47 favorites]

but I also saw the stuff that said not to do anything synchronous(!) (it says "don't require", which, sure, but then it says "refuse to do synchronous", which, what.)

We're going through this in our school right now, and one of things being pushed back against is that you can just chuck up a live stream or video conference just like in-person lessons, and that's the best way to do it.

The teachers and the students didn't sign up for or plan for or equip for an online course, and are likely to be scattered to a wide range of timezones. Plus children at home for teachers, and older students, and perhaps caring for sick family, or elderly relatives, so trying to do potentially hours of live classes back to back is just entirely impractical, and WILL exclude a good chunk of students entirely.

For most classes, real-time work is a terrible idea. Sure, it is unavoidable for some subjects (our music department has been having kittens, so google Meet is likely going to be their tool of choice for one-to-one instruction) but expecting staff and students to try and replicate the normal way of doing things is bluntly coming from management who don't have a fracking clue how impractical it'll be.

This isn't advice for setting up proper, permanent online courses. It's about not setting yourself up for a huge timesink trying to workaround a big problem that nobody signed up for and wasting a lot of your time and theirs trying to do too much.

Also, tech support - we basically can't fix people's random collection grab bag of old phones, tablets, crusty laptops etc etc remotely when they're at home. Even with them asking for live troubleshooting over the phone, trying to get an inexperienced user to describe what they see, and get them to do things the tech can't see the result of is a near impossible task. There's a reason most phone tech support is reading off a basic checklist. I mean, if your school can afford a proper remote support setup, AND licence it (and be able to deploy it en-masse at short notice) for all the students and staff, AND have the techs able to get it to run on what is by definition going to be kit with problems by unskilled users AND you have enough skilled techs to do it...

Well clearly your institution has a shit-ton more money than any I've ever worked for.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 6:52 PM on March 12 [21 favorites]

I think the title is tongue in cheek, it's more about how, as a teacher, you are ethically and functionally required to consider your students ' needs.

I do live in fear, as well, of the education policy moron who will churn out awful takes based on wretched statistics scraped from the bowels of this crisis. Education policy is the worst. Support teachers, support teaching.
posted by eustatic at 7:08 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]

At my job (I do academic technology support at a large R1 that just suspended in person classes so I have been working 12 hour days and I'm about to not have a weekend) we're trying to refrain from referring to what's been asked of instructors as "online teaching" and instead referring to it as "remote teaching" because depending on individual circumstances a student may not being doing the majority of their coursework "online". Email and sending completed assignments through the regular mail is absolutely an option that we are mentioning right alongside Zoom (please use sparingly omg managing a 30+ person webinar suuucks) and asynchronous video and the LMS. We are trying to get instructors on the right track here, but a lot need to hear it from another PhD, not the likes of me
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:28 PM on March 12 [43 favorites]

I’ve been thinking about you, soren_lorensen. I hope they’re planning to give you combat pay.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:34 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]

I read this article earlier, and found it raised some very useful issues.
I'm trying to move two courses online right now and it is terrible. Course 1 will be fine. We'll use the discussion boards and some google docs, fine. The students can learn basically the same things they would have before, in a different format.
Course 2 is... not going to do as well. I can't teach them to use sewing machines when they don't have sewing machines at home. I can't teach them paint techniques. I can't teach them to use the sound system. I can't teach them how to hang a lighting instrument. I can teach them ABOUT these things, but it's a hands-on, project based course. The point is to get them some actual experience with these tools.
It's going to be an interesting semester, for sure.
posted by Adridne at 7:36 PM on March 12 [17 favorites]

I'm having to put two university school-site once-a-week teaching practicum courses online because my students need to finish it in order to meet the requirements for certification. But we are still waiting to see if our school district shuts down because otherwise the university genuinely wants to make my college students keep going to the school site, even though the students have been told to leave campus housing and go home. What we're doing is avoiding mass incompletes, and it's just pro forma jumping-through-hoops. I will do a solid job and make them do the online work, but by this time in the term they all have undergone that wonderful transformation from nervous student to teaching assistants who genuinely care about their students, and I don't need to do much more, thank god.

I sat through a Zoom webinar today with about 65 other faculty members, and based on the questions in the chat bar most of them are really not prepared to teach online but are gamely trying and will probably try to overdo it, so that article actually has a lot of good advice.
posted by Peach at 7:44 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]

I've been driving myself up the wall trying to figure out how to teach our genetics lab online. I suspect it's going to involve a mixture of videos of our lab technician being filmed carrying out each step of the lab, and then maybe a synchronous discussion section. I might wind up being dispatched to obtain sushi for the fish genotyping lab from a restaurant of the students' choice, and there's going to be a fair amount of voting on Doodle. I don't think we are even considering Zoom, which: thank fuck.

My students are a little bit terrified and a lot confused. We spent a lot of time yesterday in my 1:30 section talking about what was likely to happen and what I expected to happen, which made me feel REALLY good about having come up with a workable game plan literally while they were taking their quizzes. They are scared of being displaced and I don't blame them. Some of them had seen the reporting on the riot? disturbance? and "projectiles fired" into crowds of students from Dayton and wanted to know how likely it was that this would happen to them. I told them to take everything they might want at home for the rest of the semester when they left for spring break, just in case.

My spouse is in the middle of their nursing clinicals and completely confused as to how the hell they will work out clinical certifications given that all nursing students have been banned from the local hospitals, probably at least until summer. No one knows how the licensure and the paid coursework will work in the nursing program, least of all us. I'm trying to figure out and predict when I will be ready to move from Austin and pick up a postdoc without splitting my household, and this is not helping that planning at all.

I also hope to god they are giving soren_lorensen all the combat pay.
posted by sciatrix at 7:44 PM on March 12 [13 favorites]

Thanks, y'all. Even though I'm management and exempt, I've been told to keep track of my "overtime" informally and I can get comp time later, off the books. I'm gonna go to the fucking beach.

(I'm also WFH along with my entire team, starting tomorrow. We were told to "use our judgement" making that call and I judge that this situation is terrifying and we all need to #staythefuckhome.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:04 PM on March 12 [11 favorites]

Having just been advised that my district is moving to online instruction for the two weeks prior to spring break, as a high school teacher unaccustomed to this, I appreciate all the advice I can get, having not done this before. I realize this is directed to college students/insructors, but many of this advice applies to what I'll be doing.
posted by kozad at 8:06 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]

I found this irritating and more than a bit dismissive; I'm very very glad I'm on sabbatical this year, even though my research trip is likely to be spent locked in a small room looking wistfully at the exterior of the library I came here to use.

That said, I think it would make more sense to cancel classes outright, refund tuition and allow flexibility for students and faculty to make up the work later than to assume that it doesn't really matter if the material gets covered, or that it doesn't matter if students hire someone to do their coursework/take their exams for them and thus learn nothing. Online courses have systems in place to assure that the person who's name is on the transcript actually did the work, but I wouldn't have the first clue. It's a model for doing a half-assed job, and I think that acknowledging that it's impossible is better than suggesting that people try and fail, resulting in students who don't know what their transcripts say they know.

And please, FFS, this On the other hand, you've got a little more wiggle room if you're teaching a class on gender and violence in 19th century British literature. You still want students to learn things, but it's not going to be the end of the world if they learn slightly different things in a slightly different way than you planned is tatamount to saying 'why do we bother EVEN TEACHING this kind of shit'.
posted by jrochest at 8:10 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]

Hello new-to-online instructors! Maybe check out Conquering the Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Online Course Design, which has now been updated (to Conquering the Content: A Blueprint for Online Course Design and Development) and is also available in a Kindle edition. It was a textbook in my M.Ed. program, which was focused on teaching adults, and I found the first edition helpful for building the online components of my classes. I have not had an opportunity to review the updated version, but it appears to have more materials available that may be helpful.
posted by katra at 8:15 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]

Having got the initial grumble off my chest, I am in awe of those of you who are handling this transition right now. I don't teach again till the Fall, which means either this won't be an issue or it will but I'll have plenty of lead-time to plan.

My day job, tho, is in K-12 ed-tech, and so we are very much trying to figure out how to help all the schools who are suddenly trying to support the education of families with kids unexpectedly at home.
posted by feckless at 8:24 PM on March 12

The Headline is on-point (if not exactly what the article is about). You should definitely not try to create an amazing online course (or even an just okay one) mid-semester on no notice. Making good online courses is REALLY hard and trying to do that now is either going to fail in not-good ways and suck up amazing amounts of time. It would be an especially bad idea to let your institution think that any resources you create in this emergency situation can later be reused as turn-key online courses.

I would really appreciate this advice if were I still teaching.
posted by 3j0hn at 8:28 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]

Ha. I just got hired to adjunct teach a brand new course in a brand new department like a month before class starts. Oh and I’m supposed to redo the content that the original professor who designed the course created because he is actually trained in a completely different field and the class no longer meets the departmental learning objectives. (Seriously, it’s like they had a chemist create a genetics course). We just got the notice today to be prepared to teach online. And it’s my first time teaching an undergrad good luck me I guess? I’ll do the best I can but I already feel so bad for the students.
posted by wilky at 8:36 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]

What a confused article. It feels like a mix of advice from different situations: to instructors in general, for not getting exhausted; to everyone who thinks students are single 18 year olds; to adults in bad labor situations.

For context, I'm deeply involved with the process of colleges and universities responding to COVID-19. I'm working with dozens of campuses and organizations, talking with people from hundreds, hosting a spreadsheet on American colleges and universities canceling classes and/or moving online, using Twitter/the blog/LinkedIn/Medium/Mastondon to share and garner information, holding several live videoconference presentations and discussions (here's tomorrow's). I'm frantically trying to see what's happening and to help in general. In social media and several interviews plus the videos I host or help with I've been singling out instructional designers and ed tech professionals (like our soren_lorensen) as underresourced and crucial heroes in this effort.

And there is so much wrong with this article.

The title is a slap in the face of hundreds of thousands of people trying their best to make this work: the instructors, the support staff, the myriad other administrators from accreditors to study abroad officers. I get that it's counterintuitive, but with the colossal pile of stress on us all? We don't need that sentiment.

"Ask yourself: Do I really care about this? (Probably not, or else you would have explored it earlier.)" First read I saw this as a great way for careless instructors to keep on being bad. Great. On a generous reread I could see it as a way for faculty to keep from overresearching the extensive (and also often ignored) body of literature concerning how to teach well online... but I'd actually prefer for faculty teaching online to, well, do a bit of prep. And hey, instructional designers and some other faculty know this stuff, and can help!
(Unmentioned in the article: most colleges and universities are assigning days off for faculty to do just this kind of prep.)

"They will be accessing the internet on their phones. They have limited data. They need to reserve it for things more important than online lectures." Simply not correct as a blanket statement. True for some populations, and those will vary extensively.

"Electives and GE classes are an important part of a good education, but we have already decided that what students learn in any one of those courses is not vital." Who's this "we"? I'm going to assume it's a general criticism of how US higher ed treats the core. And it's just not true for a lot of instructors.

There are good bits in the piece. The reminder about domestic violence, for example. The good advice about editing videos. "Listen for them asking for help."

...and I need to stop there. It's midnight and I've worked about 16 hours today. Same all week, and probably more tomorrow. If the topic is about good use of time, I'm not using mine well to keep poring over this thing.
posted by doctornemo at 8:44 PM on March 12 [16 favorites]

And yes, I'm taking my own seminar this semester online as we speak. Talking with students, support staff, and fellow faculty. Trying to do a good job, damn it.
posted by doctornemo at 8:45 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

I thought this was a good and simple way of expressing a similar point:

@ErikTheSimpson: Fellow teachers, I perceive a pattern:
The people who are most experienced with digital tools and online education are gravitating towards simple, robust, low-tech, asynchronous methods.
It's OK to make things easy and reliable.

Simple is good. Simple adds redundancy to address whatever challenges exist for both students and teachers, whether they're technical, practical, medical, or emotional. More students can watch a YouTube video than can participate in an interactive live webinar with a webcam in a quiet place. More students can take a picture of a piece of paper with a phone or screenshot their notes app than can go step-by-step through an interactive form. More students can ask questions by sending a text message than attending some fancy virtual office hours setup.

And please, FFS, this On the other hand, you've got a little more wiggle room if you're teaching a class on gender and violence in 19th century British literature. You still want students to learn things, but it's not going to be the end of the world if they learn slightly different things in a slightly different way than you planned is tatamount to saying 'why do we bother EVEN TEACHING this kind of shit'.

I get how this can be read as dismissing entire fields of study, but I also think there's a difference between courses that are intended to explore a general area of study while developing broad skills ("we're still going to read and analyze and write about these books and topics even if the process of doing that happens differently") and courses, including those in the humanities, that specifically need everyone to come away with specific knowledge in order for a curriculum to make sense or even to satisfy essential requirements for licensure. Some courses have the flexibility to emphasize certain things or modes of instruction and de-emphasize others based on the setting, while others don't; some courses are built around the idea that everyone is going to do something in a lab or learn a specific software program or speak a language or take someone's vital signs or connect electronic components together or point theatrical lights at a mannequin, and there can be tangible future implications for students if those things, things that are less flexible to move online, don't happen.
posted by zachlipton at 8:52 PM on March 12 [21 favorites]

My university gave us four days to transition our classes online. They announced on Wednesday that courses would be taught online starting on Monday. I have a Monday morning class.

The tone of this article really rubbed me the wrong way. It has some advice that I agree with, but it seems really ... smug and hectoring.

"Ask yourself: Do I really care about this? (Probably not, or else you would have explored it earlier.)"

Actually, I do care! However, I've only ever taught in person, so I've focused on learning methods that are effective in that context. Just because I haven't explored online pedagogy before doesn't mean that I don't care about pedagogy. So fuck you very much.

There are so many discussions in my department right now about how to do the best for our students. We also know that logically, we can't. Our students have competing needs. We need to have high expectations for participation and engagement if they're going to get a quality education in (whatever topic). But we can't have high expectations for participation and engagement when their lives have suddenly gotten so much more complicated and many of them will not have access to the right resources.

It's not just that we had minimal warning and now have minimal support, which is bad enough. It's also that this is just a fucking shitshow of contradictory needs.

I mean, I teach a course that's required for the major. Students who get a degree in this field should know this stuff. I hope I can still teach it effectively, in an accessible way. I don't think I can. Something has to give.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:59 PM on March 12 [13 favorites]

So I've found it equally frustrating to see so much dismissiveness and snobbery from people who already teach partially or completely online, lots of "mwahaha now the DEAD WEIGHT OLDSTERS ARE EXPOSED and you're all fools for not knowing how to do this!" Like, yes, I roll my eyes because one of my colleagues routinely struggles with logging into the CMS, but we're a school that attracts students precisely because of tons of facetime. My courses are designed to maximize that and I routinely attend teaching workshops geared to that. And now it's all been turned topsy-turvey. Students have been weeping this week about leaving. I have about a week to figure out how to completely revamp my syllabi and all assignments (group performances are certainly going to look very differen than the initial assignment they all signed onto!). I fancy myself fairly techno-savvy but this is daunting and, frankly, not my first concern right now. And I feel for my colleagues who are supposed to do all this and start taking care of their kids full-time as all of the daycares and primary schools are closing, too. And this is before anyone has illness to deal with.
If I had my druthers we'd just make like Berea College and call off the whole semester. Everyone has too much else on their mind right now.
posted by TwoStride at 9:08 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]

Sure, but at my institution we've been teaching for two full weeks already, having implemented the third year of our new-format Bachelor level degree (years one and two rolled out last year) while navigating a brand-new Learning Management System. All of our classes are delivered in-person, and have been designed as such. Our guest speakers have to be recontracted to appear via Zoom/Skype etc because there's a difference in the engagement codes for physical vs online appearance, handled by different 3rd parties.

There is no extra resourcing or support being provided to retool the work we've already done to online format, and most of it can't be anyway because the learning mode is workshop-, studio- and practicum-based. Our course offerings are heavily integrated and cohort-based, meaning that students from all year levels support each other in their practical work.

We don't have lecture-capture or streaming equipment in the majority of our studio spaces - a) because it's not easy to implement; b) because the university refuses to invest that much money in courses it has historically tried to cancel or close. I've had to spend two years fighting tooth and nail to get basic, working equipment for students to use and learn with.

In order to 'pivot to online' I would have to more than double my already-shitful workload, redo all the work I've done since December last year, develop a whole new skill-set and an approach that does not satisfy the educational needs of my students or their progress in this program, and if I did succeed, my institution would use it as more ammunition to minimise or close my program, and therefore my job.

This is the precarious situation that people outside the US are dealing with.

I am at one of the leading institutions in Australia, and a top-50 ranked one in the world.

My point is that circumstances are very different, in very different legislative frameworks and official approaches to this crisis. So maybe there is someone who needs to hear "you're allowed to fuck this up because you're not an IT expert".
posted by prismatic7 at 9:36 PM on March 12 [21 favorites]

Please do a good job of putting your courses online.

Yeah, you know, I’d love to do that, but we are being asked to do this in an unreasonably short period of time and with no extra support, with courses that were originally designed to be delivered face to face, and in my case, have been running as face to face for the last ten weeks. I mean, I’m slightly ahead of a lot of my colleagues simply because I put a digital copy of all my handouts, and links to supplemental videos, on Moodle. But that’s more like giving my students access to a digital filing cabinet where they can pick up a new copy of a handout they lost or missed. I have in no way made my course anything approaching a proper online course using best pedagogical practices. That would take a lot of time, time I’m not being given with this sudden and last minute request.

I read the headline as a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that a lot of us are being asked to put courses online that were never meant to be delivered that way, taken in large part by students who signed up for our courses precisely because they did NOT want to take an online course; we are, of necessity, going to do it badly, and that is OK. We should do what we can, but not tie ourselves in knots of guilt that we weren’t able to magically transform our (in my case) carefully crafted face to face courses into carefully crafted online courses, because to do that well takes a really long time and a level of expertise many people do not have and haven’t been supported to develop.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:30 PM on March 12 [47 favorites]

AND (since I clearly have Many Feelings about this) I also read this article as encouragement to push back against clueless administrators who are making unreasonable requests without really understanding the amount of work or pedagogical shift these requests entail.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:33 PM on March 12 [38 favorites]

My campus hasn't closed yet but we're all hunkering down and making emergency plans in case we have to. I'm not actually lecturing this semester, but I will be in May, and what am I gonna do if this lasts until then?

I appreciate the discussion here, and the links to various resources. Mefites are the best.
posted by invokeuse at 11:48 PM on March 12

Hi, I am enrolled in a master's program at the University of Washington. This is not an online program, but UW closed the whole campus last week, one week before finals. I did 8 hours of Zoom lectures today with my cohort and am scheduled for another 8 hours tomorrow. It went OK. Not a total waste of time. Students were able to deliver their final presentations, all the technology worked well. Everything was recorded because it is a health-related degree and many of us were getting called out throughout the day. I plan to go back and look again at some of the recorded lectures.

At the end of the day, one of the profs asked how we felt about the online experience versus being together in person. The sentiment was universally expressed. This went well for an emergency, but everyone felt that student conversation and questioning was way, way less and that interacting with each other was at least as important educationally as listening to lectures.

Let's not get used to this new reality, and let's get back to personal contact with each other as soon as we can. We are social creatures.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:30 AM on March 13 [21 favorites]

Doing a simple, thoughtful, and empathic job of moving students online when they did not sign up for this and everyone is under stress, is not the same thing as 'doing a bad job.' It takes a lot of work to design a course that is simple to use. Not putting in effort here on the assumption that too much tech is unecessary, will have the same effect as overloading students with the same unnecessary tech.
posted by carter at 2:47 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

P.S. - and yes, this may be 'just' a rhetorical/clickbaity headline for the article, but it would do better work as an article with a better headline.
posted by carter at 3:03 AM on March 13

My colleagues and I are extremely lucky in that we have two weeks (because Spring Break is a week away but the students will be gone next week) to figure this out, and not a few days.

Waiting for an elevator yesterday, I mentioned to another humanities instructor that I hoped I could figure out how to make a language class work--and be engaging--online. She said, "At least you're not teaching stage combat," which is an actual theater class going on this semester. I agree that it doesn't have to be perfect, but I will try my hardest to make it as good as it can be given the circumstances.
posted by pangolin party at 4:03 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

Am I the only one who's by this point comfortable enough standing up in front of~250 students and doing my thang but finding myself quite self-conscious about being *recorded* doing this and there being a potentially permanent record of how utterly bereft of gorm I've always been?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:34 AM on March 13 [18 favorites]

My institution is still trying to work out how to do labs. We have a lot of Mechanical Engineering students who can’t access fabrication labs, nursing students with physical practice courses, etc. It is going to be really interesting.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:54 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

So I've found it equally frustrating to see so much dismissiveness and snobbery from people who already teach partially or completely online, lots of "mwahaha now the DEAD WEIGHT OLDSTERS ARE EXPOSED and you're all fools for not knowing how to do this!"

On behalf of colleagues who teach online and don't feel dismissive in the slightest, I'm really sorry to hear that. I've been part of a masters programme that's specifically focused on e-learning/digital education for well over a decade, teaching online that whole time, but situated in an education school dominated by face-to-face teaching of mainly international students, and I don't see anything to be smug or snobbish about. This moment puts universities and schools under enormous strain, and my online-teaching colleagues and I recognise the impossibility of turning around on a dime one's entire way of teaching in the way that's being proposed or imposed on people. It's going to have to be a stripped-down approach if it's going to work at all, and won't be the model of online delivery that would be ideal, but nothing about this situation is ideal and people will just be trying to do their best under straitened circumstances. Even for me, with only a couple of weeks left of an online course I'm running this semester, I'm concerned for my students who will be trying to complete their final assignments during the peak of the outbreak in most of their countries. I'm also concerned that already being an online teacher won't do me or my colleagues much good if our school's face-to-face international student numbers plummet in September.

Ever since the first signs of this appeared on Twitter earlier this week, I've been thinking that discussing this moment is going to take up at least a week of a course I run next semester, and possibly more. This is going to be a milestone in the story of online course delivery, in many ways a negative one, and my field is going to be talking about it—not at all dismissively—for years.
posted by rory at 5:41 AM on March 13 [11 favorites]

GCU, that's really common. We have a digital media studio that instructors are free to use and I've coached many faculty who have zero issue getting in front of hundreds of people through the terror they experience as soon as they sit in front of a mic. It's a completely different experience than face to face live teaching. I'll often mention this phenomenon as I'm prepping new clients before their first visit to the studio and a lot sort of scoff but when they actually come in and I'm about to close the door behind me as I leave them to make their recording, pretty much every one of them gives me the "omg please don't leave" look.

It gets better with practice, I promise.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:48 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]

I'd already banned recordings in class (we've had faculty here targeted by the right wing campus groups) so the idea of recording a bunch of lectures now is also filling me with horror. (And I actually don't know if there are any privacy violations in recording an interactive video session with all of the students. Anyone know?)
posted by TwoStride at 5:51 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]

You've banned recording in classrooms? How does that work with disability accommodations?
posted by Think_Long at 6:16 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]

I work in education, exclusively in online course delivery (I'm a production editor who does quality control for the course development team, I don't teach or do the pedagogy side of thing), and we generally face a ton of shit and abuse from dismissive traditional instructors who see what we do as not "real" education and academic coordinators who sometimes use our department as a way to get their lazy colleagues a quick buck from developing a shitty course that they think doesn't matter, because "real" students don't take online classes. The tone of this article was pretty offensive, and so are many of its implications. My school was smart enough to give us two weeks to plan for going fully online (and they are saying we may not even shut down campus after all, although I think we will) and we are working our assess off to help the teams that treat us like garbage the rest of the year make things work for their students, and this feels like being told that ultimately, all the work we do doesn't matter. Never mind that most of the stuff on that list is how "doing it well" often looks in the first place (it turns out online educators often can't assume much about the technical capacity or knowledge of our students in the first place, because we are also the place where people who have less money and no time turn when the regular system fails them). This reads like someone who doesn't understand online education and who doesn't think the people who do give a shit about what's going on with their students. (It turns out we even hate online proctoring, we're just forced to use it because administrators and academic coordinators like to pretend they're cops instead of educators.)
posted by Fish Sauce at 6:22 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]

I hope university management see it as a short-term stopgap solution to the current situation rather than something they can leverage long-term to cut back on the costs of running a big physical institution.

hahahahahahaa. thanks. it's good to laugh again.
posted by logicpunk at 6:46 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]

I commented on this over in the other thread.
Now after this morning's class, I'm reflecting on how extremely different it is, and how differently you need to plan for it. It's definitely not something you can just improvise. Last year I had the same students for a course where they learnt to do physical prototypes, and then a lock-down would have been catastrophic. This year they are doing digital models, and it's surprising how difficult it is to do online. If it was only about the technique we wouldn't be needed anyway, there are plenty of online tutorials. But the whole purpose of the course is to learn how to critically review one's model, and that I still have no idea of how to teach as efficiently online. One of the things we had planned to discuss was a comparison of different software options. Which would have worked fine in a classroom setting, but will be difficult to set up online. Everyone has a computer, but mostly it is a small laptop. Comparing different models and extensions on video with live comments is not going to be close to what happens in class. (I'm not going to do it).
Another aspect of the course is architectural history. (Yes, it's fun to be the humanities teacher at a tech school). They were supposed to read books, and learn and apply the methods of history. Since they are engineers, they are only required to buy one textbook for this course, and that textbook is not adequate. They cannot write their reports on the basis of that book. Everything else they are supposed to get from libraries, which are great and helpful and part of what the course was introducing, but now they are closed. I'm really good at finding online ressources, and even I struggle to find relevant online material for this course, because there is so much rubbish out there. The students, who are in their 20's and have spent lots of time searching for entertainment on their computers, are riddled by the algorithms.
What do you think you will get if you search for the Vatican if you are not someone who regularly does scholarly searches?
Oh and they are doing group work. Which is now restricted to online group work.
Maybe the solution for me will be to find a set of links for each group and then the exam will be to control how far they have gotten with their models and how much they have read of the assigned texts. Which is not university level education.
I think I'll take a nap.
posted by mumimor at 6:54 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

I forgot to mention that I have not gotten one single line of instructions from the university.
posted by mumimor at 6:56 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

I didn't see grading mentioned in the article. My kid's school is making all classes pass/fail. There will be actual grades recorded but they this semester won't figure into GPA or put on the official transcript.
posted by vespabelle at 7:34 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]

At the end of the day, one of the profs asked how we felt about the online experience versus being together in person.

I teach two classes, about 50 student total, undergrads, somewhere at the intersection of arts/humanities/technology/media. To plan, I asked both classes about online experience, and using Zoom.

Who has had at least some online ed. experience? - about 50% yes.
Who wants to do zoom classrooms? - 100% no.

Zoom reasons included many digital divide issues - a successful Zoom education is biased towards those who have better resources to start with - who has better laptops/PCs, who has resources to get somewhere to stay now students are being kicked off campus, who can pay for adequate broadband/wifi, who can afford to pay for phone data plans, etc. These are very real issues that impact poorer students negatively. And there has been zero attempt by the university to create any kind of safe space where students can comfortably bring up these concerns. (Maybe because most poor students often attempt to pass as middle class in the classroom, the uni sees no problem? ...)

And also, they asked, why do we need to be synchronous when we are online? They are absolutely capable of multithreading asynchronous interactions, at their convenience.
posted by carter at 7:37 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]

(Unmentioned in the article: most colleges and universities are assigning days off for faculty to do just this kind of prep.)


My university cancelled classes for two days only. I don't even teach on these days, which means that I wasn't given any extra prep time to make the transition. Those two days were already filled with other obligations - including my own preparations for staying at home in case of an outbreak here.

So while I do think that instructors need to care about their students' education and needs, I also think that we're being asked to do too much. We're not all going to be able to do it. We shouldn't have to do it. It's valuable to push back against the idea that we can and should create an excellent online learning experience in this situation.

(Though I really resented the tone of the article, which seems to imply the author thinks none of us care about our students' needs.)

I've felt like barfing since Wednesday night, when they made this announcement. Not because I'm sick, but because I can't sleep and I'm that stressed. I've been up since 7am (I went to bed at 3am).

I cannot do the thing. I was already overworked and underpaid. I'm now overworked, underpaid, stressed the fuck out, and feeling besieged by people who think that either I will magically rise to the occasion or that I don't care.

I keep trying to tell myself that I'm not the one failing my students here - that they have been failed by a shitty situation and a shitty system, and that all I can do is try to mitigate the damage somewhat. The only way I'm going to make it through the next week with my sanity intact is to stop trying so hard.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:38 AM on March 13 [16 favorites]

I keep trying to tell myself that I'm not the one failing my students here

to the extent it helps to have this repeated from someone outside your own head - you are not the one failing your students here.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:44 AM on March 13 [17 favorites]

My U notified us two days ago we are moving online. The next day they said that Zoom bandwidth was already overloaded. Technical question: how do packets flow in Zoom? Assume I'm working at home and students are not on campus. Does the U run a zoom server, so it's the U's bandwidth which is the problem? I assume Zoom is not peer-to-peer or using multicast.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:48 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

aaaaand now my kid's school is closed for at least two weeks. Which I definitely think is the right choice. So now I will be responsible for teaching my kid and also my students, at the same time, from my house.
Cool. Cool.
This is fine.
posted by Adridne at 8:01 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]

My U notified us two days ago we are moving online. The next day they said that Zoom bandwidth was already overloaded. Technical question: how do packets flow in Zoom? Assume I'm working at home and students are not on campus. Does the U run a zoom server, so it's the U's bandwidth which is the problem? I assume Zoom is not peer-to-peer or using multicast
It may be a licensing issue. We are overloaded right now, too, but it's not a traffic issue, it's that our usage spike is exceeding our school's licence.

I loathe Zoom, but mostly because it's historically been a security nightmare.
posted by Fish Sauce at 8:22 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]

I read the article as a way to remind me not to take myself or my course too seriously and not to overload my students. Yes, my students depend on me. Yes, my subject is important. But, as I have learned over the decades, my course and my subject are often not the most important thing in my students' lives, let alone the world. They are taking, have taken, will take other courses besides mine, and they have lives that are being upended. I have to decide what it's really important for them to know (not just facts, but skills, understandings, frameworks, schema) and focus on that. Everything else is gravy.

[Speaking, mind you, as a part-time low-pay adjunct teaching two college courses who has spent the better part of the last five days either at my practicum sites (despite my age and asthma, despite my spouse's age and lung function problems), communicating back and forth with my students (in person, via text message, via Canvas announcement) and my colleagues (mostly email), updating my course management page, taking webinars on online teaching, and gathering information my students will need. Because this course is part of their state certification requirements for their career.]

Perhaps I am more sanguine than most because my own freshman and sophomore years, the university cancelled school and we all took incompletes in the spring both times, because it was 1969 and 1970 and student strikes had shut down the school. It didn't affect my educational progress at all. Other things did, mind you.
posted by Peach at 8:47 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]

Ask yourself: Do I really care about this? (Probably not, or else you would have explored it earlier.)
I have the extreme luxury of working in a fantastic and very collaborative department with a great dean, chair, academic affairs assistant chair, admin staff, and course lab staff. They let me invent new courses and do more or less anything I want on a whim and usually offer to help. But, creating an online class has never been an option, much less something I could expect resources for. This is a really weird way to introduce the topic. "Assuming you're the provost. . . " seems to be the expectation.

But, some of the advice is interesting. I'm open to the idea that what we're actually doing by lecturing, at least in the quantitative fields, is providing incentive for students to work together and solve problems. Whether the lecture is actually doing anything at all besides making students feel a personal connection to faculty that they don't want to disappoint isn't entirely clear to me. Doing that online seems like a real challenge, at least for the 80% less self-motivated fraction of the class.

The one good thing that might come out of this are econ and education papers that have genuine A/B comparisons of radically different classes on the same topics at peer institutions.
posted by eotvos at 9:30 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

With the important caveat that videoconferencing is only one option for doing online learning, and certainly not the right answer for everything, Zoom has announced it will be free for affected K-12 schools for the rest of the year. Worth also noting that Zoom and many other similar solutions support phone/voice-only participation, so could be helpful even for folks w/out wifi depending on how its used.

(Note: The company I work for is involved in making this happen, so I'm not unbiased here, but I think it's a great move.)
posted by feckless at 9:32 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

Switching to online for my class won't be difficult as it is a senior capstone project in software engineering and the students mostly work on their own anyway. Doing our weekly meeting via video conferencing won't be all that different than doing it in person. Other parts of the course will be decided by the department so I don't have to.

But I have to wonder what the future has in store. If most courses can be taught online, what's the point of having a campus?
posted by tommasz at 11:34 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

We were on spring break this week, and cancelled classes next week to prepare for the transition online. They haven't officially announced that we are going online yet, and I wish they'd go ahead and do it - the uncertainty is causing a lot of confusion, and students don't know whether they need to move out of the dorms or what.

It's not just that we had minimal warning and now have minimal support, which is bad enough. It's also that this is just a fucking shitshow of contradictory needs.

This is exactly it. I have students who don't know where they will live if they are evicted from the dorms. I have students who need computer labs on campus to be able to do computer based work, because otherwise all they have is a phone. I have students why may not have internet at home and are relying on cellular data plans, or students whose internet is too slow for live conferencing, or students who live with their families and need to share a single computer, and any number of other situations that make this next to impossible. And meanwhile, I have colleagues who are still at the point where they are concerned about how to prevent cheating in an online exam, and insist on live attendance of Zoom courses because hey, they signed up for a class at that time period and should therefore be available!

So I've been spending my week as tech support for the rest of the department (I am over a decade younger than the next youngest member of the faculty - millennials on the tenure track, this is our time to shine, I guess), and constantly explaining all of these contingencies about their students' lives that have never before occurred to them.

And meanwhile, I am teaching four labs this semester, and need to do what I can to teach those students something via the internet, or their phones, or... It will not be good, but maybe I can make it good enough for now.
posted by pemberkins at 11:39 AM on March 13 [10 favorites]

Similarly, for Edu's using Google, upgraded Hangouts (250 people, or up to 100k live-streamed, recording) are free for a couple months.


The first few paragraphs read as a professor giving other, over-worked and ill-prepared professors permission to do an imperfect, rushed job. It may be inappropriate to those who aren't professors and professional educators rushing to get lesson plans in place and not being given enough time, but it seems... fine when read as a discussion in the teachers room. A bit harshly worded given the broader audience its getting, but then again, the self-quarantine plan's hashtag is "stay the f*** home", sooo...
posted by fragmede at 11:47 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]

Re the recording issue and disability accomodation: in-person note-takers, interpreters, etc as needed.
posted by TwoStride at 12:05 PM on March 13

And upthread, I'd mentioned Berea College, which is no Praised for Its Response:
Berea won’t move to online classes, which many colleges and universities in the country have said they will do when stopping in-person classes. Berea will, instead, help students wrap up courses and assignments remotely, using email “or even snail mail.”

Berea has asked all students to leave campus, yes, but it hasn’t left them to their own devices. It will help finance travel arrangements for those who can’t afford the travel expenses. Those students who are from abroad, or domestic students who don’t have the right circumstances to go back home to, won’t be forced to leave and can stay on campus.

And all students will continue to be paid for their campus work positions – thanks to institutional support and education department guidance allowing it – through the end of the semester, even if they are not on campus and not able to work. Almost all students at Berea work and for a minimum of 10 hours a week, some even more than that. [...]
“Berea College serves only students who can’t afford tuition, it draws students from the lowest 20% of the socioeconomic spectrum and these students have many disadvantages owing to their background, including those that stem from poverty,” said Dr. Lyle Roelofs, Berea College’s president, in an interview with Diverse. “So we take on a different mission from other colleges and universities.”

At Berea, 95-98% of students are Pell-eligible, 70% come from Appalachia or Kentucky and 40% of the student body are people of color.

“Many come from rural areas of Appalachia where there is very poor internet access, and, where there is access, it is unaffordable and that is why we specifically ruled out moving online,” said Roelofs.

The Berea president said that issues relating to the lack of affordability of broadband are a reality for most students from this demographic, regardless of which university or college they are in.

“Their needs have been forgotten by other schools in their haste to go online … so we have gone old-fashioned” said Roelofs.

Additionally, they're giving students an advance on their next paycheck to help ease their situations.
posted by TwoStride at 12:08 PM on March 13 [17 favorites]

Having spent the last week around my wife who is not only dealing with all of the extra work to put her course online and make it accessible for her grad students, but battling an contrarian department chair about policy while doing so... there's some good-sounding advice in here. Mixed in with some bad sounding advice. And in a really shitty package.

But the gist of "don't assume your students are as or more tech-savvy than you are" is solid.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:16 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

Ack! My post should read "NOW praised for its response"!
posted by TwoStride at 12:23 PM on March 13

Things my Large State University is doing:

--The chair of my Large Department in my Large College of Education has been added as teacher of record to my Canvas courses. This is a good idea because nobody can access a Canvas course except the teacher of record and the students, so if any of us falls deathly ill, they can pick up the pieces.
--Said chair suggested asynchronous instruction (in other words, keep using Canvas and not Zoom) because people would have difficulty having access at the given time once they're off campus.
--The Large University is sending out lots of resources and advice and scheduling webinars on distance learning.

Not so good:
--My fellow practicum teachers have been asked to hold off giving our students any firm answers about going to School District practicum next week (the schools in which they are placed are closed today because too many of the staff live in a country where travel restrictions have been imposed). Even though students have to be off campus by next weekend.

I am not particularly obedient. I took it upon myself to tell my students (via text, because that's how they communicate with me in emergencies) if they had to go home, they should go home. Then I put everything I know at this point in a Canvas announcement.

If they make us go to the site next week, I will politely explain that I have asthma and that my husband has compromised lung function. I am no longer a classroom teacher and I see no reason to put myself or my students in danger or make my students vectors of infection when they are not essential personnel.

I taught all day on 9/11 and kept my children calm until all the parents had picked them all up, and I would do it again in an instant, mind you. But this is different.
posted by Peach at 1:00 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]

Yep, my university just cancelled all practica/field studies/student teaching with local school districts which means a lot of students will not be getting various educator licensures this spring. Online courses cannot replace in-person site experiences. There has been some rollout of teletherapy and tele-teaching but not nearly enough to replace all the clock hours needed.

A bunch of professional agencies are either going to have to waive some licensure requirements or there will be a significant drop in the expected number of newly licensed educators this year.
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:19 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]

Not everything is amenable to online!

The University of Minnesota has a Large Animal Veterinary Medicine program. The Rhode Island School of Design has kilns and a glass studio and stuff. Acting schools have whole stages. University of Rhode Island's Oceanography program has a damn ship.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:34 PM on March 13 [9 favorites]

I want to scrounge up and organize my notes from taking online paralegal classes a few years ago. They had a "good" system... and I watched so many students absolutely flounder. And those were students who signed up for online courses, who get some training in how the system worked, who had access to a help line to figure things out when it got confusing.

The students that are being told right now, "from Monday on, don't come in and your classes will be... online, or by mail, or something," aren't going to have that much support.

Cue up the #1 security problem with online courses: You absolutely cannot confirm that the person attached to that login is the one who signed up for the class. Heald didn't care; they were in the business of fleecing money from student loans, not making sure students got an education. (They had a decent education plan, if you bothered to follow it. If you didn't, they had a whole bunch of systems to help you limp through at a level that didn't quite disqualify you from loans; they didn't care if you actually learned anything.)

#2 problem: Most students don't know how to learn online. Even if you don't care about who's actually doing the assignments (because you trust your students, because you know they'll be held accountable for it later, or whatever), learning from a screen is different from learning in person, and it's a set of skills we don't actually train. Some people are adept at it anyway. (This group includes a whole lot of gamers.) But a whole lot of people's "learn from screen" experiences ended with "how do I make my picture show up on Instagram?"

#3 is teachers: They don't know how to do online learning either, and have even less idea how to do online teaching. (Math may be hard to teach online... but Khan Academy's been around for years. Obviously it can be done--but the whole class structure is very, very different.)

We now get a WHOLE SWARM OF TEACHERS who don't know internet communication patterns. Oh goodie. Tons of arguments of the types we thought died out in 2004. Students being marked down for sarcasm when they didn't realize they sounded sarcastic. Back-and-forth bickering about topics that neither one of them cares about but they don't know how to drop gracefully. All sorts of misinformation and rumors thrown around in discussion areas, and lack of tech support to remove the dangerous stuff quickly. And then there's all the sexism, racism, ableism, and classism that people may have learned not to show in person but are happy to throw around online.

It'll quickly be obvious which students are Good At Communicating Online. They shouldn't be the only ones who pass their classes.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:20 PM on March 13 [14 favorites]

The last post mentioned Khan Academy and I'll shout out to its excellent spinoff 3Blue1Brown. There's a lot of topnotch content out there! And it would be insane to expect, say, a calculus instructor to reproduce or improve on that content. The value-add is the classroom experience, whether that's interaction with the professor or the TA or what have you. Maybe interaction with your fellow students while studying is where the real learning happens?

FWIW, as much as I love 3Blue1Brown, it's very episodic and I'm not sure I could thread a curriculum through it. And I'm quite sure that was never the intention when it was created.

Anyway, a lot of the classroom experience can't possibly be reproduced online. And there's a lot of online content that can't possibly be reproduced in days or weeks by classroom instructors.

This is a very bad situation for students and teachers and my heart goes out to out to them all. I'm really glad to see so much effort from teachers here to make the best of a bad situation. You are the best.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:52 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

So while I do think that instructors need to care about their students' education and needs, I also think that we're being asked to do too much.

Very much so, especially in those schools and unis which expect y'all to just gin up an online equivalent of your regular classes so they can pretend everything is normal on Monday.

Be honest, the first week of doing online only classes is going to be wasted anyway, as everybody has more important things to worry about, each institution finds out the limits of their bandwidth hard and everybody has to get the hang of stuff.

Give yourself that permission to fuck up, because it will happen.

To compare: my current employer had us come to the office today because its VPN systems were not scaled to deal with people working from home on this scale and they're a large bank where working from home has long been established.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:58 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]

I appreciated this article, as a student going back to school. I was uneasy with the idea of this transition but didn’t know why, at least fully, until I read this. I’m not thrilled about one of my teachers expecting a synchronism class with students having video and audio on to broadcast if called on. I only have my phone’s hotspot.

And I did a trial run Thursday. I didn’t feel the experience was a good fit for me- I’ve not wanted to take online courses knowing that isn’t my learning style. Yeah I’m one of those students that wanted in class instruction. I learn online just fine- when I want to and have the right motivation. I don’t like the idea of paying a large sum of money for something I can (and have) learn on my own. I’d argue the way the online class went is MARKEDLY worse than if I plopped myself down with online tutorials.

I realize the article isn’t for me but damn it also helped me.
(What can be done, that I don’t know, not with the virus looming)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:07 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]

> How shall we teach math online?

> FWIW, as much as I love 3Blue1Brown, it's very episodic and I'm not sure I could thread a curriculum through it.

mathigon? (via)

also btw, fwiw... posted by kliuless at 10:47 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]

Our School of Education has explicitly told us that synchronous classes are a bad idea, and are requiring faculty who want to go synchronous to get official approval.

Right after the university offered lots of Zoom webinars, of course, but large bureaucratic organizations move like vast collections of independent motorboats loosely tethered.
posted by Peach at 5:39 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]

(Unmentioned in the article: most colleges and universities are assigning days off for faculty to do just this kind of prep.)

Local Large University announced on Friday at 5 pm that as of Monday, classes would move online. If I were teaching there I'd be scrambling to figure out an alternative. (I know both students and instructors there, and I had the impression they found out at the same time.)

As it stands, I spent a lot of yesterday playing around with my Community College's videoconferencing/online classroom system, BigBlueButton. It's fine? I do wonder about bandwidth issues, though, since it's not actually hosted by our institution and is instead routed through somewhere else. I also wonder about students' access to WiFi at home. I don't teach until next semester, though, so I've got time to re-vamp my courses.

I have a lot of experience teaching online - I've been doing it on the side for the last four years - but the reason why I teach at Community College is the in-person interaction. That interaction, I suspect, is also why some of my students choose to come to Community College. I'm not going to ask you during lecture break in an online classroom about that book you're reading, because 1) I can't see it and 2) it's being recorded anyway. It wouldn't seem appropriate.
posted by invokeuse at 8:05 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]

I have been reading about Berea College, which TwoStride made reference to above. This place is incredible on many levels and it is truly putting its money where its mouth is.

Author Silas House, who teaches there, tweeted about some of the criticism the college got for not moving classes online:

I am proud to teach at @bereacollege. A lot of people are criticizing us for closing instead of going online. Those people don’t seem to understand that not everyone has the same amenities as them. A lot of students don’t have WiFi access. So hush.

I’m just going to start saying that when people say stupid things. “[Here’s the reason you’re wrong.] So hush.”
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:00 AM on March 15 [6 favorites]

Local Large University announced on Friday at 5 pm that as of Monday, classes would move online.

This is exaclty what I mean. Deeply unserious, irresponsible thinking to pretend that a) this is possible or b) even needed right now. Universities and schools should acknowledge that the normal academic year is shot, rather than pretend everything is still normal, just online.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:19 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]

All 26 campuses of the University System of Georgia are suspending instruction for 2 weeks to prepare to go online. As far as we know now, the semester schedule is not changing, so that means our total instruction time will be 2 weeks shorter. However, it is such a relief to have 2 weeks to get my act together before I have to teach online for the first time in my life.

I am taking a lot of the advice in this article and thread to heart and working on how to keep it simple. Unfortunately, I'm teaching two sections of intro bio, and a bunch of majors are going to miss out on some great hands-on labs in their intro course. Our campus is one that has intentionally chosen to have small classes and no online classes, and students choose us knowing this, so it will definitely affect the education of our students. But I also would like them and me and their parents and grandparents to survive this.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:40 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]

Hahahaha, you undergrad instructors struggling to convert your class in a week or two. My med school administration gave us less than 12 hours notice to move everything online! We were mostly moving to a flipped classroom anyhow, so a lot of the content lectures were being video recorded or livestreamed to begin with, but all the small group stuff is now Webex too.

Some stuff will be ok. Luckily, anatomy lab is over. Physical exam practice will suffer greatly. (We have the students practice on each other for a few sessions, then go into the hospital to practice on real patient volunteers; obviously that is not happening for the next several months.) This is going to have long-lasting impacts on the education of these students, who will be going on to be your doctors in the very near future.

As a non-PE example, one of the small group sessions I teach is how to help your patients apply for disability. We go through what the process looks like from the physician and the patient side, and we literally have the students fill out disability paperwork. For all of them (except one woman who had a previous job as a hospital case manager), it's been an eye-opener. A couple of sessions ago, I tried to save trees by having them search the Social Security website and fill out the PDFs online rather than a bunch of printed copies, but they all thought that was a waste of time, so we went back to paper the next session and got much better feedback. So I am not thrilled about just sending them a Powerpoint and a PDF. There is already a massive disconnect between what the students perceive as "high-yield" (aka what is testable in multiple choice format for the USMLE Step 1 exam) and what practicing docs know is important on a practical, boots-on-ground level.

This is the students' only formal exposure to the disability process in their ENTIRE MEDICAL EDUCATION. For sure, they'll be asked to fill out FMLA forms and SSI/SSDI forms etc throughout their career. But seriously, I graduated med school a decade ago and until I started putting together the lesson plan for this small group last summer, I -- a physician who specializes in chronic progressive neurological diseases -- had no clue what the disability process is really like. That's how bad the baseline situation is, and our one tiny attempt at making it better is rapidly getting run into the ground.

Some medical schools -- including my own alma mater, an Ivy League That You Have Definitely Heard Of -- are sending students away, even clerkship students, in an effort to conserve PPE and resources. I wonder if they are going to have to take incompletes? Either way, their practical education and prep for residency training will greatly suffer.

posted by basalganglia at 7:49 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]

My district is moving all k-12 classes online. I think they're giving principals a lot of discretion.

Teachers will have 2-3 days of 'training'. From each other, apparently. I'm on deck for Google Classroom. Which I've barely used in the last three years because it's impractical to the point of impossible to get laptops to the classrooms I'm assigned to.

No one has any idea how this is going to work, and the chancellor has said, 'we're building this plane as we're flying it.'

I have my suspicions as to how things will go down - according to what is simplest and easiest for administrators to observe and rate teachers on, because actually completely shifting pedagogy is hard - and how this will play out - with stark differences depending on the demography of the student populations on a course by course basis.

I'm guessing it will be a heck of a lot of work, and I'll just be hoping that some actual benefit accrues to some of the students some of the time.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:51 PM on March 16

Criminal Procedure--Class 16
posted by rory at 3:43 AM on March 18

Brandon Bayne at UNC—Chapel Hill has made his Adjusted Syllabus document available to all instructors to "copy, paste, edit, and adapt" with five primary guiding principles:
  1. Nobody signed up for this.
  2. The humane option is the best option.
  3. We cannot just do the same thing online.
  4. We will foster intellectual nourishment, social connection, and personal accommodation.
  5. We will remain flexible and adjust to the situation.
posted by invokeuse at 9:28 PM on March 22 [4 favorites]

A sobering, yet highly empathetic critique of "coronavirus-inspired productivity pressure" in academia (and also more in general) from A.S. Ahmad, International Security prof at UTSC and UofT.
"The answer to the question everyone is asking - "When will this be over?" - is simple and obvious, yet terribly hard to accept. The answer is never."
posted by progosk at 3:37 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]

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